Ranch Musings: Forget dinosaurs

David Zirnhelt writes about “plant blindness” and soil health

David Zirnhelt

Observer Contributor

A couple of decades ago, research showed that modern civilization is dangerously ignorant of plant life, even if we eat parts of them daily. This phenomenon has been called “plant blindness.”

We hear that one million plant and animal species are at risk. All of you who went to UBC will have seen the article that inspired this column from the Fall edition of the Trek, the UBC Alumni publication.

Too much attention is being paid only to the “at-risk” big animal species like Rhinos. We have a fascination for dinosaurs, and children probably know more about them than any plants that are at risk these days.

Connections with nature, some studies say, have beneficial effects on cognition and learning. As we lose these connections, we miss learning about the environment that supports our lives.

I think I grew up “plant-blind,” and that is not all. While I studied biology in high school and first-year university, I was diverted into international relations and politics. Later at UBC, I was fortunate to participate in an interdisciplinary seminar in ecology and for a few years, I had the inspiration of one of the world’s leading ecologists, Buzz Holling, who just passed away.

But I was really blind to the small critters in our soil.

For those of you who want to pursue more information on plant blindness, check out the journal Plants, People, Planet.

But those big plants and animals are all we have to come to know. If we are blind to many of the living things we can see, what about the microscopic plants and animals in the soil? Millions exist right under our feet.

This leads me to the upcoming Soil Health Conference in the Cariboo in January.

Some local people have invested a lot of time on behalf of all those interested, especially farmers and ranchers.

This conference, being held Jan. 16 and 17, was designed to bring in a world-class expert and mix her with local experts or “knowledgeable persons” to get us on track to understanding this underworld below our fields and pastures.

With understanding and practical advice, we can move forward in our stewardship.

Soils expert Kris Nichols will be in Williams Lake, along with other guest speakers and members of producer panels to share information about regenerating soils with soil biology; principles and production practices to regenerate soils; and linkages between soil health and human health.

To register for the Sustainable, Low-input Strategies with Practical Tools to Build Soil Health event, visit eventbrite.ca/e/bc-interior-soils-conference-building-soil-health-tickets-81077522051 or call Ang at 1-604-243-8357. Sign up today!

David Zirnhelt is a rancher and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at Thompson Rivers University Williams Lake.

READ MORE: Ranch musings: winter pasture thoughts



editor@quesnelobserver.com

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